Listening at Work is the second in the series Joseph Learned to Listen
So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority Genesis 39:4
Joseph prospered because the Lord was with him and his master, Potiphar noticed, however this blessing wasn’t without its practical working out in the daily circumstances of Joseph’s work. Certainly Joseph wasn’t a lazy or incompetent slave. The Bible makes it quite clear that we are to work heartily as unto the Lord. Secondly, Joseph did not steal or defraud Potiphar and most importantly Joseph learned to listen to Potiphar.
Above all things a slave must be obedient. In order to be obedient a slave must listen to his master. This listening obedience is both a learned skill and an acquired virtue. Since most of us would love to be promoted, recognized for our good work and compensated fairly let’s take a closer look at Joseph’s story.
A) Joseph didn’t complain
For many of us we struggle to listen at our job because we think that we are meant for something better. Certainly Joseph would have been tempted to believe that he had greater skills than scrubbing floors, waiting on tables and taking out the trash. Yet in spite of all his training and preparation for a higher position we do not hear a single word of complaint from Joseph. Maybe our first step towards being better listeners is to stop complaining. We are unlikely to learn anything new if we are busy talking about what else we would rather be doing.
B) Joseph paid attention to details
Part of being a good listener is paying attention to detail. In my work as a translator I have learned to empty my mind of my own concerns and focus on the exact words of what I am being asked to translate. I need to hear every detail and then render it into the language of those listening to me. People hear the words from my mouth but in reality they are receiving the message from the one for whom I am translating. When we are at work we are to represent the wishes and goals of our employer. Whether we are cleaning a house, building a car or teaching U.S. history learning to listen to the details is important. If the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock it does not matter if I wish that they had settled in New York. On the assembly line no one will be impressed if I believe the steering wheel belongs in the trunk and I am unlikely to be praised if I decide that cleaning the library is more important than washing the dishes. All of these funny stories are played out a thousand times a day in usually less exaggerated form and reflect whether we have listened carefully to details. Joseph cared about details so much that Potiphar entrusted him with every detail of his household.
C) Joseph listened first to God
While we are hearing what we are being asked to do at work, there does come a time when we need to first listen to God. Joseph had done so well in listening to Potiphar that he came to a prominent position in his household. This prominence came to the attention of Potiphar’s wife who desired to have Joseph for herself. It would have been far easier for Joseph to simply accept her advances and go on with his life, but Joseph listened first to God. Often our first tendency as Christians at work is to jump to this third position first. But unless we have stopped complaining and learned to listen to details, our obedience to God will not be much of a witness. Looking to another young man named Daniel we see that his stay in the lion’s den was not just about him praying. Daniel’s obedience to God was framed by his excellent service to his king. How is our life framed today? Have we learned to listen without complaint? Do we give people the attention needed to hear every detail? When we have become good listeners we will be more likely to hear the still small voice of God when He speaks. Listening to God and obeying him in our everyday lives allows us to be translators. We listen to God’s word and translate it into ordinary actions so that those around us can hear the message of the good news of salvation and focus their attention on Jesus Christ.